FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- Two Arkansans are running against Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson for a seat on the Natural State's highest court.
The race has drawn national attention following a ruling by Washington County Circuit Court Judge Doug Martin to temporarily block a few local television stations, including KFSM, from airing outside attack ads.
On Monday (May 14), Martin approved the order barring the ads from the Judicial Crisis Network, a Washington-based group that has been criticizing Courtney Goodson ahead of the May 22 nonpartisan judicial election.
The 30 second advertisement against Goodson claims the judge took gifts from donors and money from law firms with cases she was presiding over.
"I am not guilty of taking money, and or gifts as bribes or in exchange for favorable treatment in the courtroom," said Goodson during a sit down interview with 5NEWS. "That has never happened and it never will happen."
An investigation was conducted by the Rapid Response Team, of the Arkansas Judicial Campaign and Education Committee, Inc., a nonprofit that reviews and responds to complaints alleging false or misleading judicial advertisements filed by judicial candidates or their campaign committees.
The team found the ads by the Judicial Crisis Network to be "false and misleading" and sent a cease and desist letter to the group demanding the withdraw the advertisement and stop mailing flyers.
"I can't sit on the sidelines and be quiet," Goodson said. "I want people to know that these ads are full of lies and deceptions."
The Judicial Crisis Network released a response to the letter from the Rapid Response Team and the Arkansas Judicial Campaign Conduct and Education Committee, Inc.
In it, the group states in part:
"This Committee has no authority to demand that any party take any action, and it has no enforcement authority whatsoever. This Committee is a self-appointed, self-professed “watchdog” which is a non-profit organization that appears to exist to protect judges like Justice Goodson from criticism."
The same group is also airing attack ads against Goodson opponent, Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Hixson.
The ad accuses Hixson of being soft on crime.
"As a judge, you have to set aside your personal beliefs and personal feelings and just rule on the facts and the law that the case has," responded Hixson during an interview with 5NEWS.
Hixson said he won't be going to court and hopes voters will send special interest groups, like the Judicial Crisis Network, packing this Tuesday (May 22).
"Vote for me and keep those special interest groups out of Arkansas," Hixson said. "I think that's a better way to respond than trotting off to court."
On Wednesday (May 16), Judge Martin's court recused itself from Goodson's case after a motion to disqualify filed by Goodson's campaign. That move came after a report found Doug Martin's wife, Amy Martin, received money while providing legal services for the law firm of Goodson's husband.
The report also found Amy Martin had contributed to Courtney Goodson's campaign for chief justice during the 2016 elections.
"I certainly understand that there could be a perception here that does not promote what the judiciary would hope for," said Goodson of the report during our interview, which was conducted prior to the motion of disqualification filing.
David Sterling, attorney for the department of human services and a fellow Arkansas Supreme Court candidate, is running as a judicial conservative.
"The constitution trumps all else," Sterling said. "I'm an originalist, a textualist, and I believe that the judges should not be legislating from the bench."
Sterling has not encountered any negative advertising, but said he has no connection to the Judicial Crisis Network.
"I don't have anything to do with those ads," Sterling said. "I haven't communicated or coordinated with any of those groups."
Goodson believes the negative ads have distracted voters from her record and hopes they will see her record as an independent and impartial judge.
"I think that my experience I bring to the court in a very specific way is something that should not be overlooked," Goodson said.